Steamers are used to steam a variety of items, including asparagus, corn, seafood, and much more. The traditional steamer is a large stock pot with one or two inserts (adding another few inches to the height of the base) that fit snugly onto the rim of the stockpot and sit down inside the pan. Like a typical stockpot, the steamer base has a flat, circular bottom; tall, straight sides; and two small handles. Each insert also has two handles for easy removal. A lid will fit onto the top of the insert. You can find steamers in a variety of sizes.

If you already have a stockpot base, you may be able to find a universal insert or one made by the same company as your stockpot. If not, you can purchase a steamer set (sometimes called a “multi-pot”), which is great because the stockpot base can be used for cooking pasta, potatoes, soups, and much more.

The steamer works by boiling water in the stockpot base, resting the insert onto the base, and placing the food into the insert. The steam from the boiling water then comes up through the slats or holes in the insert and steams the food.

For those interested in healthy cooking, steamers can be an excellent addition to your kitchen. Unlike boiling vegetables, steaming allows foods to retain their nutrients and flavour. (When vegetables are boiled, the nutrients are leeched out into the water, which you then pour down the drain!)

Steamers are most commonly found in aluminium and stainless steel; they rarely are seen with non-stick options. The material choice does not matter too much in the case of a steamer, as the boiling water actually does the cooking rather than the heat distribution throughout the metal directly to the food.

© Cooking 2008

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